1. The white noise behind the loud bangs
  2. Wink, nod, dissent anyway
  3. Regimes of unnatural nature
  4. Sane talk that crazes the mad hounds


That white noise in the background of gunshots in schools, theaters and the like — the noise we don’t notice until someone points it out — is divorce and fatherlessness:

Another mass shooting, another round of handwringing in the United States about gun control and adolescent mental health. Christopher Harper-Mercer, the 26-year-old who took the lives of nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and wounded several others before taking his own life, had access to a small arsenal of guns. His suicidal mission can only mean that he was mentally deranged.

These are the two big themes that Americans from President Obama to millions of ordinary moms and dads are debating again after the most deadly school shooting since Adam Lanza killed 20 elementary school children and seven adults, including his mother, at Sandy Hook nearly three years ago.

Of the two, and despite the prominence gun control is getting, the mental health issue is more challenging. That is because it cannot be addressed honestly without facing up to one of the biggest contributors to unhappiness, depression and crime amongst young men anywhere: growing up, thanks to divorce or non-marriage, without a father.

Divorce lies in the background of Umpqua, Sandy Hook and many similar tragic episodes …

Commenting on yet another school shooting a couple of years ago, family sociologist Brad Wilcox wrote:

“The social scientific evidence about the connection between violence and broken homes could not be clearer. My own research suggests that boys living in single mother homes are almost twice as likely to end up delinquent compared to boys who enjoy good relationships with their father.”

Furthermore says Wilcox:

“Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has written that “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.” His views are echoed by the eminent criminologists Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, who have written that “such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime rates.”

(Carolyn Moynihan)

This suggests at least three things to me, as I’m one of this who doesn’t notice the white noise as often as I should:

  1. Restricting guns in various ways is a superficial government response.
  2. Buying an arsenal is asuperficial personal response.
  3. We should filter every novel policy idea through an Environmental Impact Statement, the “environment” being the natural family with two biological parents.


Related to divorce, at least in correlation (and I suspect in causation), is the sexual revolution.

When it comes to what people do and believe, the sexual revolution has triumphed, at least in the rich world. Many Catholics who are otherwise involved in church life use artificial means of contraception. They cohabit. They get divorced. They are increasingly sympathetic to social norms that affirm homosexual relations.

This lack of obedience to church teaching tempts many pastors to sideline controversial issues. American Catholicism has adopted an unofficial agreement between the leaders and the flock: We’ll ignore reality and not talk about what’s going on. This corrupts the pastors, creating a dishonest atmosphere of winks and nods. I can see why Francis would be unhappy with the status quo. It encourages hypocrisy.

Viewed from a different angle, however, Catholicism’s official refusal to kowtow to the sexual mores of our time has succeeded. The Church is the only major institution in the West that has not accepted the sexual revolution. The official resistance provides an important witness, even when combined with widespread accommodation in ­practice. The sexual revolution has a ruthless quality. It ­allows no dissent. The mere suggestion of teaching chastity to fifteen-year-olds in school is enough to unleash furious denunciations. That the Church has not allowed herself to be dictated to and intimidated by the sexual revolution inspires.

(R.R. Reno) I like this a lot, although if “The Church” means Rome, as it probably does when Reno is writing, then I demur. Apart from the question of whether contraception may licitly be used to space children in an intentionally fertile marriage (I don’t mean to minimize the seriousness of that question, but not all contraception is aimed at producing the modern DINK household), Rome is not alone.

As for the sympathy with social norms that affirm homosexual relations and “dishonest atmosphere of winks and nods,” these seem to me to be based in fairly substantial part on the deeply defective reflex that “if it’s me (or my kid, or my cousin, or my friend) doing this stuff, then it must be okay.” That reflex — not the failure to live up to a professed moral code — has always struck me as the core of hypocrisy.

The reality is that you, your kid, your cousin and your friend are just as broken and soul-sick as the rest of us.


And what of regimes that ignore or even undermine the natural family?

Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been imposed.

Catechism of the Catholic Church section 1901 via James Kalb.

But before you pick up your pitchforks:

Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.

Also Catechism of the Catholic Church09. Kalb seems to concur: armed resistance is premature.


There are measures short of armed resistance, however:

I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

(Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, italics added) Lincoln’s analysis is correct, important, and above all, timely. I did not say “easy.” The packs of mad hounds go crazy over sane talk like this.

Some serious-minded people are calling for constitutional resistance to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell usurpation in that spirit. I’m with them.

Others, more activist in spirit, add a call to support the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The USCCB seems favorably disposed. I’d like to be but I still cannot support it. I’m waiting to be told why I’m wrong about that.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.